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Separation Agreement Options

If you are not happy with the terms of your marital separation agreement, you are not alone.  It may be that you rushed into signing the agreement, without carefully analyzing the terms, and missed an important sentence.  Or, maybe you misunderstood the meaning of a particular provision.  Regardless of whether you want to make a few simple changes to your separation agreement, or want to set aside the entire agreement, we have provided some basic information to help you understand your options.

If both you and your spouse want to make revisions to your current separation agreement, and can agree on the new terms, making these changes could be as simple as drafting and executing an addendum to the original agreement.  Make sure you pay attention to any special provisions dealing with modification of terms in the original agreement.  It is also very important to clearly indicate which issues are being modified, and which issues will remain unchanged.

If your spouse will not agree to modify a currently existing separation agreement, your next move will largely depend on your motivation for wanting the revision, as well as the type of issue involved.  For example, if you contend that you did not actually agree to the current agreement, or that the agreement is not signed by you, you may be able to challenge the validity of the agreement.  North Carolina has specific requirements that all marital separation agreements must comply with in order to be valid, and failure to comply with these requirements could be grounds for rescission of the agreement.  Also, certain issues, like child custody and child support, are often modifiable through the court system, regardless of the existence of a valid separation agreement.

What if your spouse refuses to comply with certain provisions in your separation agreement?  Most separation agreements operate like contracts, and can be enforced in much the same manner.  Depending on the language contained in your marital separation agreement, you may be entitled to institute an action in court to enforce the terms of your agreement.  Your separation agreement may provide for other types of dispute resolution for failure to comply with certain terms, such as mediation or arbitration proceedings.  One party’s failure to comply with terms in a separation agreement may also “open the door” to a potential modification.  It is wise to consult with an attorney to determine the best way to proceed, and to learn how each option will affect you.  If you have questions about your separation agreement, contact us at 919-833-6640.

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